CWC has tested 18 private domestic wells during the pilot phase of our free private well testing program for people living in disadvantaged communities. This new CWC program helps Californians understand if they have health-harming pollutants like arsenic, uranium, bacteria, or pesticide byproducts in their well water. Our goal is to help residents reliant on domestic wells understand what’s in their water and, as needed, how to access safe water. The program will also help us better understand the water quality and water depth of private wells in Tulare, Fresno, and Kern counties.
Three CWC staff have been trained in water sampling protocols, and we are working with a certified lab to test wells for seven priority contaminants, specifically, Total coliform bacteria; E. coli; Nitrate; Dibromochloropropane (DBCP); 1,2,3, Trichloropropane (TCP); Hexavalent Chromium; Arsenic; and Uranium. As possible, we are also testing depth to water using a well sounder. As part of the program, we visit each home at least three times, first for outreach, then for water quality sampling, and finally for follow-up to provide the results and resources about how to obtain safe drinking water if contaminants were discovered. In addition to materials about contaminants, certified water filters, and bottled water options, we also provide information to residents about drought resources, our work toward regional long-term water solutions, and safe drinking water options.
The data collected through this program will be uploaded and made available through the California State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) GeoTracker online system Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment Unit (GAMA) online database. The data collected through this program will inform residents with private wells of their water quality and aid in decision-making related to long-term water solutions.
Unfortunately, many wells that we have tested have exceeded the legal limit for at least one contaminant. Multiple wells have been above the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for Nitrate and bacteria, and we have also seen wells above the California public health goal for 1,2,3-TCP, Hexavalent Chromium, Arsenic, and Uranium. CWC is working with these impacted residents to make sure they know how to access safe water.
As a result of this program, Cristobal Chavez just discovered that his household well is contaminated with nitrates at more than three times the legal limit. Soon after we tested his well, Mr. Chavez and his family decided to stop drinking their contaminated water. We helped the Chavez family then sign up to receive bottled water deliveries from the county so that they don’t have to pay an extra $80 to $100 a month for bottled water, which was an unexpected financial burden for the family. Mr. Chavez is now eager to speak out about the need for programs that reduce and clean up nitrogen contamination in the Central Valley.
If you know rural residents of northern Tulare and south Kern counties who would like to sign up for CWC’s private well testing program, please let us know (559-733-0219).